Illustration by Moebius
As explained in his recent interview with LWE, Pangaea has been careful to call Release a double EP, rather than full a album. Never one to revel in an overabundance of easily digestible floor fodder, Release takes rather the long view on Pangaea’s slim discography, presenting tracks that simmer with nervy tension and hidden detail rather than the full frontal assault of his 2011 tracks. The result is a record that contains a strong selection of darkly seductive night music — low key and built to last.
“Game” leads with a Missy Elliott vocal snippet — “Do your thing/ just make sure you ahead of the game” — alongside sleek break work underpinned by tightly buttoned subs. The deft rhythmic interplay between the repeated vocal and tumbling break makes for thrilling listening. “Release” itself is a masterful exercise in tension and, well, release. The first three minutes are given over to an encroaching desert of drones; all parched pad movement and scant hats while the main attack of the track comes from nowhere at the three-minute mark — a brutal drop that sucks the air out of the room with a filthy Reese and robotic snares.
Techno, long an obvious influence on Pangaea, comes to the fore in the shape of “Majestic 12,” a disarmingly jaunty track which could quite comfortably fit in a peak-time Ben Sims set, pivoting on rolling kicks, warped subs and a frenetic rhythmic buoyancy. Older Pangaea flavors get something of a working in the form of “Time Bomb” and “Middleman.” The former pivots around a sound palette of 8-bit grime-esque synths while the latter is a hard (dub) steppa, shifty and paranoid. “Aware,” meanwhile, borrows heavily from jungle in its arrangement, sounding rather like an old Digital plate slowed down to –8.
Pangaea has long been something of the musical dark horse of Hessle Audio, ably plowing a brooding landscape between the moodier stations of bass culture past and present, and his productions have a longevity and range that deserve to be given serious listening time. And although Release is not likely to curry new-found favor with the Beatport crowd, that was never the point. It’s a strong record, full of the winter blues.